Chief Justice in a provocative acquittal statement

 483 total views,  2 views today

By Itumeleng Koleile

In the wake of Basotho in a frenzy trying to grapple with the workings of why justice Palesa Rantara acquitted murder accused business mogul Tšeliso Nthane, Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane laid it bare why the judiciary ends acquitting suspects.

The Chief Justice on Monday this week told a three-day validation workshop filled with lawyers, magistrates, court clerks, journalists and development partners that: “It is very important to understand the context within which we [judicial officers] operate, we have the police, they are the first point of entry. Then we have the prosecution and if the prosecutors don’t do their job very well, we are duty-bound to acquit people”.

Amid the irony of the Justice Sakoane making the controversial statement at a gathering held at Blue Mountain Inn hotel in Teyateyaneng, district of Berea owned by the businessman that Justice Rantara’s acquitted last week Friday for his role in the death of his Nthane Brothers Company Driver Kopang Mohapi, many questions remain on why the evidence adduced to in court could bring the court to sent Nthane to the gallows.

Among many critics’ questions was the question of whether the police, prosecution or the judge had been bribed to secure the business mogul’s acquittal amid him having shot dead his company driver allegedly in cold blood.

But the Chief Justice offered lessons on the workings of the judiciary and how tangible evidence is key to securing the conviction of criminals highlighting the key role played by both police and prosecution.

“We know that that the members of the public don’t make a difference between the prosecution and the courts sometimes. They believe that once a person is charged or brought to court the responsibility of seeing that a person is found guilty is judicial officers, but the contrary is the truth.

“We only follow facts and evidence. If the quality of evidence if poor. The law says that we should acquit, it is not a matter of choice, we have to do that.

“It is very important that we should have efficient investigators, efficient prosecutors and of course knowledgeable judicial officers, judicial officers who are efficient, who are not lazy, who do not come to work late, who can read their law, update their knowledge. And this is a very demanding task on the bench,” said Justice Sakoane.

Sakoane said the three-day validation workshop is meant to deliberate on the improvement of the judiciary.

Chief Justice was referring to the fact that among prospects that need to be taken into consideration in improving the judiciary is restoring public trust and confidence.

Sakoane also said among other issues centred around the improvement of the judiciary is the improvement of the court processes, clients’ needs and satisfaction, court planning and policies and court leadership and management.

He added that not only is there a need for the professional police service but also he said the judiciary ought to have officers who are not lazy, who carry out their duties efficiently and on time and should read to improve their knowledge.

He said that modernization of the courts is a necessity as he said the Covid-19 proved that it was possible, as they were forced to limit human interaction and thus had to use technology to interact.

“Once that is implemented, we will have a lot less contact, cross-examinations could be done digitally, especially if witnesses are in far-away places and weather conditions do not allow travelling,” he said.

Moreover, Chief Justice said that through digitalisation, there will be no need for clients to pay lawyers’ travel expenses.

He also said it should be noted that the judiciary is not only planning on improving the judiciary because of the European Union and the United Nations Development Programme, “but because we want to improve our society”.

The Registrar of the High Court Advocate Mathato Sekoai, said the validation workshop is also intended to make an assessment of the case management on the civil stream.

She said they are working on automating their system.

“We have to move from the old manual system to the automatic system,” she said.

Moreover, according to the expert from the Qualysis Consultants, Sehoai Santho said their speciality is in transitioning from the manual systems to the new future, digitalisation and automation system (e-governance), which they are hoping will make the judiciary more efficient in taking care of its records, tracing cases and eliminating the backlog of cases.

“There is always a notion that judiciary in Lesotho has a thousand cases waiting to be finalised, and so the aim is to eliminate the backlog, files and papers should be the thing of the past,” Santho said.

He said Covid-19 has accelerated digitalisation and that it should not be ignored.